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Origin of Tea

Tea Growing Areas in Sri Lanka






Tea Production



The Plant


The tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is a species of tree related to the camellia. Its flowers are yellow-white and its fruits small and hard-shelled, similar to a hazelnut. The evergreen leaves are leathery, dark and slightly serrated. Given minimum annual temperatures of 18 C, moderate and infrequent frosts, a uniform annual precipitation of 1600 and a good balance of sunshine, a tea plant can easily grow to become 100 years old. Wild tea plants are indeed reputed to reach an age of up to 1,700 years.



Tea Contains


Cafferin (teine)/Tannins/Amino acids/Proteins Trace elements and minerals: fluoride, potassium, calcium, manganese/Vitamins: niacin, vitamin B1 and B2 “Tea both stimulates and calms”: Tea owes its stimulatory effect to its caffeine (teine) content: It does not act on the circulation via the heart, however, but directly on the brain and central nervous system, as it is bonded to the tannins and is not released until it reaches the intestine. This explains the demonstrable capacity of tea to increase concentration and responsiveness.


In the Island of Sri Lanka, tea is produced in three elevational cultivation areas of High grown, Medium grown and Low grown which has become famous throughout the world. Sri Lanka is the only country within the tea growing nations which manufactures all type of teas which include CTC, Rotorvane, Orthodox and Green Tea.



Tea Cultivation


Tea bushes require regular pruning to prevent flowering and fruit formation. This also makes it easier for the tea pickers to gather the two uppermost leaves and the newest bud (only these are relevant for the tea harvest). Most picking is still done by hand in order to preserve the quality of the harvest. Some countries have developed mechanical picking methods, however, which greatly simplify production processes.



The Orthodox Production Method







This production method consists of five stages – withering, rolling, fermentation, drying and sorting.



Withering


The freshly picked green leaves are spread out to dry on ventilated trays. During this process, approximately 63% moisture is extracted from the leaves, making them soft and pliable for further processing.



Rolling


The leaves are then rolled by applying mechanical pressure to break up the cells and extract the cell sap. After 30 minutes, the leaves, still damp from the sap, are sieved to separate the finer leaves. These are spread out immediately for fermentation, while the remaining coarse leaves are rolled for a further 30 minutes under higher pressure. If necessary, this process is repeated several times. A short rolling time produces larger leaf grades, while longer rolling breaks the leaves up more resulting in smaller grades. During the rolling process, the cell sap runs out and reacts with oxygen, thus triggering the fermentation process. At the same time, the essential oils responsible for the aroma are released.



Fermentation


After rolling, the tea is spread out in layers approximately 10cm high for one to three hours in a cool, damp atmosphere to finish off the fermentation process. During this process, the substances contained in the cell sap oxidize. In this production phase, the green leaf gradually turns a copper color. The color and typical odor tell the person supervising the process how far the fermentation has progressed. Various chemical reactions cause the leaf to heat up during fermentation. It is critical for the quality of the tea that the fermentation process be interrupted at its peak, when the temperature is at its highest.



Drying


Next, the tea is dried with hot air at a temperature of approx. 850°C to 880°C in order to interrupt the oxidation process. The residual moisture is thereby extracted from the leaves, the extracted sap dries on the leaf and the copper-colored leaf turns dark brown to black.



Sorting


Finally, the dried tea is sieved to separate the different leaf grades. The orthodox production method provides teas of all leaf grades: leaf, broken, fannings and dust. Leaf grades only refer to the leaf size; however, they are not necessarily an indication of the quality of the tea.

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